Amidst an unpredictable job market, individuals often seek the certainty that lies in a guaranteed success. In a recent report, we bring you the ten majors that consistently lead to the highest-paying jobs for fresh graduates within their initial four years after completing their education. For Gen Z students, who face apprehension about entering a turbulent economy characterized by layoffs and potential disruptions, understanding the pathways to higher earnings can serve as a guiding light.
Unsurprisingly, STEM fields dominate the top-paying majors, as revealed by the HEA Group, an esteemed higher education research and consulting agency. Additionally, the report delves into the average pay of the most popular majors, utilizing data from the U.S. Department of Education to highlight the average income during the first four years after graduation. Astonishingly, only three majors yield early-career salaries surpassing $50,000 per year on average.
At the pinnacle of the highest-paying majors is operations research, which paves the way for careers as analysts utilizing mathematical prowess to enhance a company’s performance. This field yields an impressive average early-career income of over $112,000 per year. Although the number of jobs available for operations research analysts is limited to 104,200 according to BLS data, the field is projected to grow by 23% this decade, faster than the average.
Claiming the title of the most popular highly-paid major is computer science, with degree holders earning around $105,000 per year—significantly surpassing the median U.S. income of approximately $57,000 for full-time workers. On the other hand, nursing, the most popular major among high earners, boasts an average annual income of over $76,000, while communications majors can expect to earn around $49,000.
Nevertheless, any comprehensive list can only provide a glimpse of what graduates can anticipate in terms of earnings. Starting salaries are influenced by various factors, including location and the employing organization. For instance, a communications professional might earn more immediately after graduation at a tech company compared to a nonprofit.
The HEA Group highlights, “College isn’t solely about monetary gain. Numerous intangible aspects go beyond what salary data can measure.” However, “this updated salary data empowers prospective students to make well-informed decisions as they explore individual programs offered by the colleges they are considering.”
Despite the ongoing debate regarding the value of a college degree for U.S. workers, often coupled with mounting student debt, research consistently demonstrates its overall worth. The HEA Group’s report affirms that individuals with a bachelor’s degree tend to out-earn those with an associate degree or postsecondary certificate.
Nonetheless, nuances persist. Graduates with an associate degree in a STEM field can still thrive remarkably well. For instance, a physical science associate degree can lead to early career earnings close to $85,000 per year. Similarly, an associate degree in nursing yields an average annual income just shy of $67,000, comparable to that of nursing bachelor’s degree holders.
Here are the average salaries for the highest-paying majors among bachelor’s degree recipients:
- Operations Research: $112,000
- Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: $109,000
- Computer Science: $105,000
- Marine Transportation: $104,000
- Computer Engineering: $99,000
- Veterinary Medicine: $97,500
- Petroleum Engineering: $97,000
- Systems Engineering: $95,000
- Pharmaceutical Science: $94,000
- Electrical, Electronics, and Communications Engineering: $92,000
And here are the average salaries for the most popular majors among bachelor’s degree recipients (listed in descending order of popularity):
- Business Administration: $58,000
- Nursing: $76,500
- Psychology: $43,000
- Criminal Justice: $47,000
- Accounting: $64,000
- Communications: $49,000
- Teacher Education: $42,000
- Biology: $49,000
- Liberal Arts and Humanities: $44,000
- Health and Physical Education: $47,000
Discover the original story at Fortune.com.
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